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New Accenture Research Finds Hidden Value in Closing the Equality Progress Gap

Reducing the gap by half would boost profits in the APAC region by $1.35 trillion and global profits by US$3.7 trillion, along with workforce ambition and empowerment

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A significant gap exists between the way leaders and employees view progress toward equality in their organizations, according to a new cross industry research from Accenture. Closing the gap will yield substantial benefits for companies and their employees.

The report, “Getting to Equal 2020: The Hidden Value of Culture Makers,” which covers several industries across 28 countries including India, found that organizations are at an inflection point: Today’s workforce cares increasingly about workplace culture and believes it is critical to helping them thrive in the workplace (reported by 88% of women and 77% of men in India), and majority of leaders (91% in India) believe an inclusive workplace culture is vital to the success of their business.  

At the same time, there is a perception gap: nearly all leaders in India (94%) believe their people feel included, yet just one third (36%) of employees agree.  Two out of three leaders (66%) feel they create empowering environments where people have a sense of belonging, however less than half (48%) of employees agree.

Most leaders also rank diversity and workplace culture low on their list of top organizational priorities. A majority of leaders in India ranked brand recognition and quality (84%), and financial performance (78%) at the top of their list of priorities, while only 37% ranked diversity on top. Also, only 37% ranked culture at the top.

“For every organization today, building a culture of equality needs as much focus as any other business goal,” said Rekha M. Menon, Chairman and Senior Managing Director, Accenture in India. “In an era where innovation drives growth, people are the most valuable source of competitive advantage, and equality and empowerment are key to unleashing their potential.”

Narrow the gap, accelerate progress

Aligning leaders’ perceptions with those of their employees would yield significant upsides. Everyone—both women and men—would advance faster, and global profits would increase by US$3.7 trillion, including US$ 1.35 trillion in the Asia Pacific region.

If the gap were closed by half:

In India, the proportion of women who feel like a key member of their team with real influence over decisions would rise from 1-in-5 to more than 1-in-3.
The annual retention rate in India would increase by 2% for women from 88% to 90%.

The research is especially timely for leaders, as employee expectations are only set to increase. In India, it was found that a large percentage of Gen Z is more concerned with workplace culture than Boomers: (81% vs. 72% respectively).  
 
The Culture Makers
 
The report identified a small percentage of leaders—‘Culture Makers’—who are more committed to building equal cultures. These leaders recognize the importance of factors such as pay transparency, family leave and the freedom to be creative in helping employees thrive.
 
Globally, Culture Makers are much more likely to have spoken out on a range of workplace issues, including gender equality (52% vs. 35% of all leaders) and sexual harassment/discrimination (51% vs. 30%). They hold themselves accountable, leading organizations that are nearly twice as likely to have publicly announced a target to hire and retain more women.
 
While just 6% of leaders surveyed globally, are Culture Makers, they represent a more gender-balanced group compared to the broader group of leaders surveyed (45% women vs 32% of all leaders, respectively). Additionally, a full 68% of them are Millennials, compared to 59% of all leaders. They are more likely to lead organizations where people advance, focus on innovation and remain committed – and their organizations’ profits are nearly three times higher than those of their peers.  
 
Achieving a culture of equality
 
The report lays out steps to help close perception gaps and drive progress toward a more equal culture that benefits everyone and enables leaders to continuously evolve their strategies to meet changing needs.
 
The research reaffirms that bold leadership, comprehensive action and an empowering environment are proven anchors for creating a culture of equality:
 
Bold Leadership – Leaders must truly believe that culture matters and prioritize it. For example, benchmark progress toward a culture of equality by setting and publishing targets; and reward and recognize leaders and teams on progress. A culture of equality starts at the top.
Comprehensive Action – Go beyond the data. Leaders should engage in a meaningful, continuous dialogue with employees. Consider face-to-face meetings, focus groups, town halls. Conducting ongoing, real-time conversations with employees helps to capture feedback and empower leadership to quickly drive change.  
Empowering Environment – Encourage and cultivate Culture Makers. Create opportunities for future Culture Makers to opt-in and take on specific culture-related roles within their organizations and find ways to bring leaders and culture-minded employees together to develop specific, actionable solutions.  
 
Methodology
Building on previous Accenture research that has explored how to build a workplace culture of equality and the benefits for organizations and employees, the report is based on a global survey of more than 30,000 professionals in 28 countries (including 1000+ professionals from India); a survey of more than 1,700 senior executives (including 50+ senior executives from India) across industries; and a model that combines employee survey results with published labor force data. Accenture leveraged it’s Getting to Equal research from 2018 and 2019 to create new data and analysis using three steps: quantifying the perception gap, measuring the impact of the perception gap on employee outcomes, and measuring the impact of closing the perception gap.


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